Edition #74: Opting In To Life

Plus, why you never truly leave high school, an invitation to a party, and a classified ad for friendship

A Note From the Editor

New York is a wild place to live, particularly in my neighborhood. I moved into my current apartment during COVID, lured by the discounted price tag and the assumption that this might be the only opportunity I would have to live alone in West Village. The apartment was small and a fifth-floor walk-up, but I was charmed by its proximity to Washington Square Park and by the traces of life lingering on the otherwise ghostly streets. There was a bar and a smoothie shop and a comedy club. I imagined one day, after this all was over, those places would again be flooded with tourists and locals alike, hugging, laughing, celebrating the simple joy of having opened their eyes that morning in a city as vibrant as this one.

There was a second, more subtle reason I chose this apartment over the roomier, more peaceful ones I’d been touring in Brooklyn: I thought living in the West Village might make me more prone to fun. While I present as an extrovert, I had lived alone before and understood my tendency to retreat into the corners of my mind during extended periods of time in solitude. After a day, two days, three days, a week with nothing but my thoughts and the sporadic phone call as company, a pattern would begin to emerge. I would be shocked to discover that I didn’t need social interaction nearly as much as I once thought I did. In this state, I would eventually not want to see anyone, for the interaction would feel like a chore and I would not be up for the task. In Brooklyn, I would be a lonely girl who sat inside all day, but in West Village, I would be a Woman About Town. I imagined becoming a regular at a neighborhood bar, laughing with the charming bartender as they poured me a round on the house. I would host themed dinner parties, rearranging bodies to fit into my small space like a game of human Tetris; her here, him there. 

Shortly after moving into my new apartment, I discovered a physical place does not change who you are, nor does it change your natural tendencies. You can decorate it, you can plop yourself smack dab in the middle of a bustling street, you can imagine all of the things you might do, and still, you are you. That’s not to say I never left the apartment, but I didn’t transform into a Woman About Town the moment my keys unlocked the front door. I did, however, begin to take nightly walks on the Hudson River, amazed at the hypnotizing tranquility of the setting sun sparkling on the water, the way the World Trade Center would change colors as the evening overtook the daytime. Sometimes, I would meet up with a friend who lived close by and we would walk together. These walks were often the highlight of my day, my only social interaction, the thing I was proud of myself for doing. As we got close to parting ways, my friend would mention that she was headed to her neighborhood pasta spot to meet up with her personal trainer for a quick dinner, or that she was dropping by a restaurant pop-up to try a chef’s roast chicken, or that she was going to have a drink at the bar near her apartment. These were soft invitations, plans I could easily insert myself into with little force, though I never did. Instead, I would marvel at her tenacity; she does so much! Going out to dinner after a late walk? I’d already had dinner at home, and when I returned home I would wash my face and go straight to bed.

This was not an isolated thought, it is one I’ve had most of my life, especially while living in New York. Two of my best friends would go for runs together in Prospect Park before work, then sit at a sidewalk cafe and share a ham and cheese croissant before starting their days; I would marvel. A late Sunday evening after a weekend ski trip, a friend and her partner were headed straight to a buzzy restaurant for a birthday dinner, I would marvel. Another friend would recount how she treated herself to a large pizza for dinner and spent the night in bed watching romcoms, I would marvel. It seemed I was missing a fundamental trait needed to be the type of person who just did things. Maybe it was a heretofore undiscovered tendency for introversion, or maybe it was remnants of Catholic guilt blended with my rules-centric Virgo sensibilities—do not waste time doing things like watching TV, you can’t eat out on weekdays, be in bed by 10 pm, etc.

I spent the last two weeks in Florida—watching the sunset nightly on the beach with my family, the weight of my nephew’s small body curled in my lap, playing unnecessarily competitive games of foosball as laughter-induced tears leaked from my eyes, scream-singing along to a cover band with friends I hadn’t seen in years, kissing the plump cheeks of a best friend’s first child, watching her and her partner settle into parenthood with a grace that took my breath away. I was living, It was during a morning beach walk with my mother where I had the quiet revelation; there will be no formal invitation to living my life. No one is going to force me to finally book those tennis lessons I’ve dreamed of taking for the past few years, no one is going to suggest I close my laptop at a reasonable hour to have a picnic dinner in Central Park. No one is going to hold my hand and lead me to all those New York things I’ve always wanted to do: a day spent aimlessly wondering new neighborhoods, a night spent exploring the Queens Night Market, a for-no-reason group dinner at my home, a visit to that little homemade pasta spot on the corner. I can be that person, the one who does things just because, who isn’t constantly waiting for an invitation from others to go live her life, who doesn’t avoid the small joyful moments in life in favor of arbitrary, self-imposed rules. I thought of a similar revelation that came at the end of last year and felt a sense of peace wash over me. Sometimes I won’t want to go out, sometimes reading a book on my couch is just what I want to be doing. It isn’t about doing so much as it is about allowing space to do. To see, smell, and feel alive.

Cheers, my dears, and as always, thank you for reading. Please make your way to the bottom of today’s edition to learn about an exciting event happening this weekend, I hope to see you there!

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P.s., What are your favorite song lyrics? I’m looking for 3-4 lines that speak to your soul for a creative project I’m putting together for this weekend. Send me some lyrics (including the song name/artist) for a chance to be featured!

Three Pieces of Content Worth Consuming

  1. Why You Never Truly Leave High School. Can you picture your greatest high school crush? The way their hair fell, their scent, those silly shoes they used to wear too often? What about your algebra 1 classroom? The place you would sit at lunch? Your best friend, your most embarrassing moment? This fascinating piece explains why those formative high school years hold so much real estate in our brains long after graduation caps have been tossed. It also goes on to cite several experiments meant to uncover the correlation between who people are in high school and their success as an adult.

    “Give a grown adult a series of random prompts and cues, and odds are he or she will recall a disproportionate number of memories from adolescence. This phenomenon even has a name—the “reminiscence bump”—and it’s been found over and over in large population samples, with most studies suggesting that memories from the ages of 15 to 25 are most vividly retained”

  2. When it Became Normal to Ignore Texts and Emails. I originally Googled this question to discover whether there's an official name or reason for why I so often ignore text messages and emails that I intend to reply to. Was this a named ailment? A product of the attention economy? Turns out, it's just a symptom of modern life. This piece gives several possible options for delays, which are becoming more and more socially acceptable—establishing dominance, having too many conversations going at once, the shallowness of digital conversation. From this piece I learned the word “phubbing”, ignoring people in favor of your phone in social settings.

  3. Why Billionaires Pay So Little Tax (audio). If there is one thing you consume from today’s edition, make it this episode of The Daily. America’s relationship with billionaires has markedly shifted in recent years as the wealth divide grows steeper, and this fascinating examination of the bombshell ProPublica article published earlier this week goes into detail about the ways our American tax code allows the wealthiest few to pay less than you and I in taxes. The most interesting piece was the historical context: how Americans used to tax the rich at astronomically high rates all the way up until Ronald Reagan.

“The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.”

Perhaps You Should…
Come to Our Arty Party!

If you live in or around the NYC area and want to support a good cause while celebrating art, stop by our Arty Party this Sunday at noon in Mccarren Park (on the corner of Lorimer and Bedford). We threw our first one earlier this year to celebrate my first short story being published, but this one is for a much worthier cause.
The Cause: A local undocumented worker in Brooklyn fell and severely injured herself at her place of employment. She has no health insurance and had to get surgery as a result of the fall, so she is riddled with medical debt and unable to litigate against her employer because they’re threatening her with her undocumented status. At this point, her injuries are so severe they might make it difficult for her to do her job in the near future. We’re raising money to give to her in hopes that we can lighten the burden of her situation and her outstanding bills.
The Format: Starts at noon, readings start at 12:30 pm. We’ll have vintage wares by Gemhouse, jewelry by Malka, a guided meditation, live music, a 50/50 raffle, and more! Admission is free, donations gladly accepted. And if you’d like to come read/sing something (be it a poem, a fiction excerpt, a personal essay, a song, a standup routine, etc.) just email me. Hope to see you there!

**Bonus Content** (A Classified Ad for Friendship)

I originally came across this document (where a woman lists requirements for the sort of friendship she’s seeking and invites people to contact her) via a classified ad in a newsletter I read. I will first point out this isn’t much different than using Bumble BFF to foster platonic relationships, albeit the listing is much more exhaustive than a Bumble profile. I often think about how modern life—living in cities far from home, the nuclear family, lack of community ingrained in life—make it supremely difficult to find your footing and feel a sense of belonging, especially in a new place. So much so that people will go to great lengths to obtain those close relationships they’re missing. What do you think? Would you take out a classified ad to find a potential best friend?

A Quote From A Book You Should Read:

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful...and decide what you want and need and must do.”

-On Beauty by Zadie Smith

This newsletter is best served with a side of conversation, so drop your opinions, reflections, and thoughts in the comments below and let’s get to talking.

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Or, share the most thought-provoking piece from today’s edition with someone you love, then call them up to discuss, debate, and percolate. As a wise woman once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.”